Modern automatic transmissions are extremely complex units that contain numerous
mechanical, hydraulic and electronic components. Because of their complexity, they
often fail earlier than engines. With proper maintenance, many modern engines can
easily exceed 200,000 miles without needing replacement. Automatic transmissions,
however, often fail between 80,000 and 150,000 miles. Yes, that’s quite a range,
and the reason for it is twofold; some transmissions are simply better built than
others, and the way the vehicle is used has a profound effect on transmission longevity.
Every time your transmission shifts gears, clutches and bands inside the transmission
must apply and release for the shift to occur. With every shift, your transmission
experiences wear. The harder you’re accelerating when the shift occurs, the more
wear there will be. If you're cruising the interstate at 60 MPH, the transmission
is not shifting and no wear is occurring with regard to the clutches and bands. If
you have two identical vehicles, and one is used primarily on the highway and the
other is used for stop-and-go city driving, the latter vehicle’s transmission will
fail long before the one used on the highway.
When deciding whether or not to replace your engine or transmission, many of
the same considerations apply. However, as noted, transmissions tend to fail twice
as often as engines. In other words, if your transmission fails at 100,000 miles
and your engine is good for 225,000 miles, it makes sense to replace the transmission.
Replacing the transmission is usually an easier decision than replacing the engine.
When the time comes for a new transmission, the big question is, "Is it worth
investing that much money in my vehicle, or should I buy a new one?" There is no
right or wrong answer, and each situation should be evaluated on a case-by-case basis.
For example, if you have a 15-year-old car that is worth $2000, has 180,000
miles on it, has some body rust, needs some other repairs or maintenance, and is
in generally poor condition, it probably does not make sense to invest a few thousand
dollars in a new transmission for that vehicle. On the other hand, if you have an
10-year-old car that’s in relatively good condition, then it makes sense to take
a closer look at a remanufactured transmission.
Before going any further, consider the honest answers to the following two questions.
1. Does the vehicle suit your needs? Sometimes a vehicle no longer fits the
purpose for which it was first purchased. Sometimes situations arise that make your
current vehicle incompatible with what you need it to do. For example, you own a
2-seat sports car and you just got married and are expecting to start a family. Is
the 2-seater going to be practical for a family of three or more? Another case: you
just moved from an apartment to a new single family home and need a truck instead
of your current car. If your current vehicle passes this test, then let’s move to
2. If the transmission hadn’t failed, would you keep the vehicle for 2 or more
years? On average, the "break even" point on an investment in a transmission is about
2 years. In other words, you have to drive the vehicle for 2 years to recoup the
cost of the transmission. Every day you drive the vehicle beyond the 2-year point,
you’re ahead of the game, financially speaking. If you wouldn’t keep if for at least
2 years, you’ll probably lose money. On the other hand, if you have a newer vehicle
that’s still worth a considerable amount of money, it may still make sense to replace
the transmission in order to trade it in or sell it. A vehicle that is not in operable
condition has very little value as a trade-in or resale.
If at this point it makes sense to consider replacing your transmission, there
is more you need to know. The options are to rebuild your current transmission, replace
it with a used one, or install a remanufactured one.
Used transmissions are a gamble at best. Most professional shops won’t even
consider installing a used transmission; the risks are just too great. With a used
transmission, even if the mileage is reasonably low, you have no idea how the transmission
was maintained or used. Furthermore, today’s computerized transmissions are much
different than those of 30 or 40 years ago. While it might have worked perfectly
well to install a 1965 Chevy transmission in a 1969 vehicle, you can’t assume that
a 2001 transmission will work in a 2000 vehicle.
Computerized transmission control systems have software designed for very specific
applications, and if things aren’t just right, a real nightmare scenario can ensue.
Parts that won’t work right, "Check Engine" lights that won’t go out, shifting problems
or other demons that seem to defy explanation. Furthermore, while most used transmissions
are warranted for some short period of time by the junkyard selling it, they do not
pay labor to replace a defective used transmission. If the transmission fails and
the junkyard won’t pay labor, would you expect the shop to do it for nothing? Would
you be willing to pay?
Rebuild Your Transmission
While rebuilding the transmission in your car can result in an excellent repair,
there can be some serious drawbacks. One is warranty. If you drive your car a thousand
miles away on vacation and the transmission has a problem, who’s going to fix it?
Towing it back to the shop that rebuilt it is not feasible. Will that shop pay another
shop to make the needed repairs? A few will, most won’t. Ask.
A big drawback to rebuilding your transmission is time. The transmission must
be removed, disassembled, parts purchased, reassembled, and installed back in the
vehicle. This could require 3 or 4 days, where installing a remanufactured transmission
usually takes just 1 day. Of course, if you have a modified performance transmission,
custom rebuilding is your only choice.
The third drawback is the inability to quote an exact price before the job is
begun. There is no way to estimate the extent of the damage until the transmission
is completely disassembled, cleaned and inspected. Unexpected costs can arise due
to problems like cracked castings, broken gears and drive shells, or damaged pumps.
The reality is that rebuilding your transmission could result in more time, more
money and less warranty.
Installing A Remanufactured Transmission
For most people, installing a remanufactured transmission is the best choice.
The big concern here is the quality of the remanufactured transmission and the quality
of the shop doing the installation. The quality of remanufactured transmissions varies
greatly. This is one time that you really don’t want an inferior product.
Alpine Auto Service recommends and installs Jasper Transmissions. We have found
Jasper transmissions to be of the highest quality. Jasper transmissions carry a 3
year / 100,000 mile warranty that covers both parts and labor. Their warranty is
nationwide and a toll free phone number gives you access to a Jasper representative
24 hours a day, seven days a week.
The last issue is who’s going to install your remanufactured transmission? While
Jasper Engines & Transmissions will faithfully stand behind their product as they’ve
done since 1942, they cannot be held responsible for the quality of the installation.
Replacing a modern transmission is very complicated and attention to detail is critical
for a successful installation. Having a quality Jasper transmission installed by
an incompetent shop will not make you happy. The quality of the installation is just
as important as the quality of the transmission. Alpine Auto Service is the only
shop in the Glen Burnie area that is a Jasper Preferred Installer. Alpine Auto Service
and a Jasper Transmission is a great combination for restoring the life to your vehicle.